While it might be hard to reach a consensus about just what makes a book a cult classic, you’ll definitely know that you have read one after turning the final page. Among the following 5 books, there are the ones you might have heard about in passing or that keep popping up in conversations. Some you might never even have heard about, but one thing is for sure, they are all must reads that belong in your library.
by Nathanael West
American author Nathanael West published his novel, The Day of the Locust, in 1939. It is set in Hollywood and tells the story of Tod Hackett, a young artist. Tod moves to California in the hope of finding inspiration for his next painting and ends up working for a Hollywood studio. It is here where Tod ends up interacting with the strange people on the fringes of the film industry. The novel sold less than 2000 copies after it was first published and the author died shortly afterwards in a car crash. However, it soon became a cult classic and by the late nineties ended up on the list of 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
by James Hilton
While most people are familiar with the fictional utopia of Shangri-La, few knew that it originated in the 1933 novel, Lost Horizon, by James Hilton. It is a about a group of survivors from a plane crash in Tibet who go on to find shelter at a mysterious monastery. Not only is Lost Horizon an enjoyable story in its own right, but its timeless themes also make it very thought provoking. Although the public only realized the brilliance of Lost Horizon after Hilton published his novella, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, it is now considered a cult classic that inspired two films along with numerous radio adaptations.
by Katherine Dunn
In terms of sheer shock value, it is hard to beat Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. Although she began writing the book in the late seventies, it wasn’t published until 1989. Geek Love is the tale of a traveling carnival where the owners come up with the idea of creating their own freak show. They go about this by using experimental drugs on their own children with the purpose of genetically altering them. As bizarre as that sounds, the book becomes even stranger, but thanks to the twisted tale and original cover art by Chip Kidd, it quickly became a cult classic.
by Luke Rhinehart
Nothing helps elevate a novel to cult classic status quite like being banned in a few countries, but that is exactly what happened to The Dice Man by George Cockroft, written using the pen name Luke Rhinehart. It is the tale of a psychiatrist who uses a dice to start making life decisions and was published in the early seventies. Cockroft started using a dice to make his own decisions while he was studying psychology and he used his own experiences to write the novel.
by William Gibson
Long before the Wachowski siblings left cinema goers in awe with their movie The Matrix, William Gibson was writing about a virtual reality dataspace known as the “matrix” in his novel Neuromancer. It was published in 1984 and is considered by many to be one of the best books in the cyberpunk genre, which isn’t bad for a debut novel. Neuromancer follows the exploits of Henry Dorsett Case, a down on his luck computer hacker who is tasked with pulling off the ultimate hack by a mysterious employer. Although Neuromancer a huge hit when it was first released it quickly grew in popularity due to word-of-mouth and its influences can be seen in just about anything related to the cyberpunk genre.